My previous post gave some gloomy reasons why you should not self-publish so I am delighted to give some reasons to self-publish with a good understanding of the possible negatives.
- Firstly, you can ignore all the negatives, take no heed of advice, do no research, and just write your book, use an Amazon cover creator and publish in less than half an hour. You could become a best seller and household name. It won’t cost you a penny. Just be aware that the chances of this happening are tiny to non-existent.
- Publish for the joy of holding your own book in your hand. You can buy ‘author copies’ which are printed on demand for the cost of printing (plus postage). Maybe you just want 20 books for 20 relatives, friends and acquaintenances. That’s your Christmas presents sorted.
- Why not write and publish an autobiography for your grandchildren? Collect photographs, newspaper cuttings and so on to illustrate the story.
- Hobbyist, enthusiast or any ‘niche’, there may be a number of people who’ll be interested in your book. A great publication about goat harnesses may not get you into the best sellers but it could bring a modest return. If exposure and income are your aim, remember you’ll have to find ways to bring the book in front of potential readers.
- As an example of small niche publishing, I was looking for a book about the history of gambling in England. Not many to choose from. I found an Amazon-printed, no-frills paperback for £5-49 by John Ashton, The History of Gambling in England. It doesn’t seem to have involved much in the way of formatting and design, or attention to cover (the back is just plain black) but it does what it says, the content is excellent and the price makes it amazing value.
- Publish for a cause or campaign that has a lot of interest. You already have a good potential readership. Offer a well-researched and focused book.
- Community publishing has great historical roots. Local History is a particularly popular topic for smallscale publishing like this. It’s also an opportunity for community members to get involved in the process of publishing. Remember too that ‘community’ doesn’t have to be geographically defined. A community may be globally dispersed, for instance made up of beekeepers.
- Writers’ groups often publish their members’ work.
All very well I hear you say, but what if you have a great book like a genre romance or crime novel? What if you want it to be read by thousands of readers and make you some money? Great. Go for it. You’re sensible, you know the odds are against you with so many books, just as good, already out there. You come across, through research, many authors who’ve cracked it and are doing well, and you want to be like them.
- If you have researched the field properly you will know that even authors who are ‘mainstream published’ (by respected publishing houses) by and large don’t earn much, and often don’t sell anywhere near as many books as they’d like. (Some only become successful after they’ve died). There’s a fair amount of luck involved but:
- Successful independent authors, in almost every case, treat their writing and publishing as a business and generally follow business pocedures which include the need to:
- Make the best possible product. A finished manuscript has to be excellent writing. It should be proofread, preferably by an expert. It should be copy- edited by an expert who will make minor and major amendments to the story, check for consistency of character and fact, pacing, length, etc. Your manuscript needs formatting for print and you can hire someone for this, use online software or attempt it yourself. The cover is a major thing people judge a book by before they even consider picking it up. Expect to pay maybe £300 to get this done professionally. All these things you can do yourself, or hire a ‘gig’ from sites like Fiverr, but remember that the less expertise and cost in book production, the less quality.
- You spend time to the point of exhaustion in writing your book. But as a publisher you have to market, promote and price your book correctly. There are many businesses out there who promise to do this brilliant for a hefty fee: beware, many of them achieve very little. What you need to do is learn as much as possible about these vital areas. This is where the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and related organisations are so important. ALLi covers every area of independent publishing in depth, produced by highly experienced and successful writers. For £55 as an associate member you will save an absolute fortune in time and money. You get, among many other things, complete books on various publishing aspects, individual mentorship, details of the best and worst support businesses, a weekly podcast, a lively members’ forum, very worthwhile discount coupons (for example to waive the IngramSpark $49 set-up fee). Any question that an individual may have will be answered very quickly.
- All the smart advice is to begin things like promotion and marketing, starting a website, building a following months before you publish. All in all, this entails starting to learn the ropes towards being business-savvy at the same time as you’re writing. I’d suggest curbing impatience to publish that first novel until you have understood and put into practice business strategies – even if that takes three months.
- This may all seem daunting, may even seem unnecessary. Actually, if you are a famous footballer, politician or pop star it probably is unnecessary because your agent would hire a ghost writer if necessary and you could be pretty sure a mainstream publisher would be keen on the book. For the rest of us, publishing is, like anything in life that’s worthwhile, hard.